Gasoline in Maine, still above U.S. average, drops by 3 cents

The cost of a gallon of gas in Maine is falling despite an increase in the price of a barrel of crude oil on the international market.

Price-monitoring website reported Monday that a gallon of gas has dropped nearly 3 cents in Maine in the past week to an average of $3.48.

That’s still a nickel above the national average and almost 58 cents more than a gallon in Maine at the same time last year.

Maine’s gas prices have not moved much in the past month.


Maine heating prices rise by 3 cents in past week

Maine energy officials say the state’s average heating oil price has risen by 3 cents per gallon in the past week to $3.59.

The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security’s weekly heating fuel survey Monday found the increase in the statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil.

Energy Director Ken Fletcher said the price went up as crude oil prices increased to a three-month high. He says that rise may be more of a reflection of political conditions within the European Union than supply and demand factors.

Average prices varied across Maine.


Barnes & Noble debuts $249 tablet in e-book competition

Barnes & Noble unveiled a $249 Nook Tablet on Monday just ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season in a bid for more of the growing markets for e-books and tablet computers.

Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are challenging Apple and its dominant – and much more expensive – iPad for a piece of the holiday pie.

The Nook Tablet arrives just weeks after released its Kindle Fire tablet, which sells for $199. Barnes & Noble said its device offers more memory and longer battery life.

The Nook Tablet will be in stores and shipped to customers Nov. 17. Like the Nook Color, it has a 7-inch color touchscreen.

Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble doesn’t offer streaming services, but the Nook includes preloaded apps from Hulu and Netflix that let users subscribe to movies and TV shows.

Morningstar analyst Peter Wahlstrom said the tablet appears to be a solid device. “At $249, it gives Barnes & Noble customers or potential customers enough to think hard about which device they want,” he said.


Rally sends Dow above 12,000 after early swings

A late rally pushed the Dow Jones industrial average back above 12,000 Monday as investors responded to the latest twists in Europe’s efforts to control its debt crisis. U.S. indexes were down for much of the day on worries that Italy could become the next country to run into trouble.

Stocks rose after 2 p.m. on news that Greece would receive the latest installment of emergency aid as long as the country’s two main parties commit to implementing economic reforms agreed to by the country’s previous government.

Investors again reacted to the latest headlines out of Europe. The region’s problems have been offsetting optimism about strong corporate earnings in the U.S. and signs of improvement in the economy.

The Dow rose 85.15 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 12,068.39.


Obama board backs 18.6% pay hike for railroad unions

U.S. railroads would boost pay for most union workers by 18.6 percent over six years under a recommendation from the board appointed by President Obama to help the industry avert a strike.

That figure, which was submitted to Obama late Saturday, compares with the 19 percent increase over five years sought by unions and the offer of 17 percent over six years from carriers led by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The plan is aimed at preventing a walkout that the Association of American Railroads said would cost the U.S. economy as much as $2 billion a day. More than 90 percent of railroad workers belong to a union, according to the AAR, the industry’s Washington-based trade group.

The two sides now have 30 days to consider the board’s suggestions. If they don’t reach agreement by Dec. 6, the workers are permitted to strike and the railroads can lock them out.


Ford plans software patch to fix dashboard touchscreens

Ford, which has plunged in quality rankings this year, plans to provide a software patch to more than 300,000 vehicle owners to fix malfunctioning dashboard touch-screen controls.

Early next year, Ford will send owners of the Ford Explorer, Edge, Focus and Lincoln MKX a UBS flash drive loaded with software aimed at fixing problems with MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch audio, phone, climate and navigation systems, Ford said Monday in a statement.

Consumer complaints about the touch-screens was a leading reason Ford fell to 20th from 10th last month in annual reliability rankings from Consumer Reports magazine. The technology also was blamed by J.D. Power & Associates for Ford falling to 23rd from fifth in its 2011 new-car quality survey.

Graydon Reitz, director of Ford’s global electronics and electrical-systems engineers, declined to say what the repair program will cost Ford.


U.S. credit card debt down as overall borrowing rises

Americans borrowed more in September to buy cars and attend college, but they charged less to their credit cards for a third straight month. The figures suggest that consumers are growing more cautious about taking on high-interest debt in a weak economy.

Total consumer borrowing rose by $7.4 billion in September, the Federal Reserve said Monday.

In August, it had fallen by the most in 16 months.